Kaboom

Windows updated today, automatically, and then as it was installing the update (“do not restart or unplug the computer!”) it crashed, offering up a blue screen of death and forcing a reboot. Now this picture represents as far as it will actually go in the signing on process — I can’t even access the boot menu. Add this to some already existing hardware issues and it seems a good bet this computer needs a drastic overhaul and/or replacement. And of course I have some work locked up in the hard drive. Now I get to call the client. Sigh.

91 thoughts on “Kaboom

  1. Boot your installation CD and run repair. If that won’t get Windows booting, take the drive out and plug it in to another machine as a secondary. That will give you access to the files. If Windows ate the partition table, I’m sorry. That’s recoverable, and Ontrack will happily only charge you a couple thousand to do it.

  2. Hi Mr. Scalzi,

    If you are so inclined you may want to try something before you toss it in the shop. There’s a battery on the motherboard called a CMOS battery. It looks like a large watch battery. Try taking it out for about 30 seconds and setting it back on the motherboard.

    I had that issue when the battery wore out… its possible the battery was going and this crash during an update killed it. You can pop it out with a small flathead screwdriver. If its a Dell, they may be able to walk you through the steps as well.

    Good luck with the machine!

  3. The problem is that I downloaded Vista rather than using the DVD. And will definitely be pulling out the drive.

  4. microsoft is the real reason why i own an external drive. i keep all of my writing there, and on a pen drive as well. there’s just no telling when that craptastic OS will die on you.

  5. This is why I don’t let any software do automatic updates. I always choose the “inform me and get permission” option, so at least I have a chance to back up important new stuff before the update starts.

  6. Jamie, the partition table is recoverable without paying Ontrack. Many Linux livecds include tools to recover the partition table.

    Scalzi, you did have a regular backup regime, right? right? I’m pretty sure JWZ’s advice has been mentioned here more than once.

  7. As others have said, try to boot it up with a Linux LiveCD and see if you can access the hard drive with that. If you can, and it’s not the hard drive that’s the problem, you can probably burn the most essential stuff to a disc or something to back it up.

  8. Jon R:

    Most data that are critical to me are on an external drive, and yes, I do back-up regularly. That said, I was keeping a series of short articles I was working on, on my desktop for quick access, so they weren’t being written to the external.

    I don’t really have any doubt the articles are there and their data uncorrupted; it’s just going to be mildly annoying getting to them.

  9. Got to lifehacker (obviously on another machine) and search on their free recovery tools. You can create a boot and diagnostic recovery “drive” on a memory stick. Plugin and boot from there unless everything is fubared it coud work. Good luck.

  10. My sympathies. It looks like the BIOS is functional so the battery advice doesn’t apply. I like Jamie’s advice and would only add that you will need to change the jumpers on the drive to change it from the primary drive to the secondary drive. Considering this is the tool you make your living with I would have to advise you to not play with it. IE no linux dual boot. I have no problem with linux but if you want to check it out get a second machine to play with. Then after a couple of months testing without problems you might want to start risking real work on it. In fact I would say the same thing about Vista. Let everyone else do the beta testing. Buy no OS before it’s time.

  11. Ack. One thing that I’ve started using to back up small stuff like those articles is Memeo (http://www.memeo.com/). I’ve not used the Windows version, only the Mac, but they all sit in the background and do on the fly backups of any file that changes. I have a old box with a big HD in it that is shared on the home network and I just mount the shared directory as a drive. Memeo backs up to it just fine and there’s no noticeable hit to my laptop’s performance.

    Not that that relieves the hassle you face…

    PS: No affiliation with Memeo aside from the satisfied customer bit

  12. Get one of these babies:

    http://www.amazon.com/Deckcell-SATA-Cable-Power-Adapter/dp/B000QV5ZQC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1203017271&sr=1-1

    I have a couple different models, and I use ’em on a near-daily basis for data recovery. No messing about with mounting the drive as a slave on a second system; just plug it into a computer with a functioning USB port (2.0 definitely preferred) and you’re good to go. (For desktop hard drives, make sure to get the model with the power supply.)

  13. Worst comes to worst: HDD Enclosure.

    Pop out your internal HDD, stick it one of these, and access the files from USB (pending Windows didn’t completely corrupt your file mappings on your HDD). You plug in the USB connection to another machine (I can’t imagine a household with only one machine in it) and access it like you would any external HDD.

    This is good for when your machine refuses to boot, but your data are still on your HDD, completely unmarred (regardless of the state of your OS).

    I’ve recently had computer problems of my own, so I feel your pain. Luckily mine boiled down to replacing my video card.

    Anyway, hope that helps.

  14. You don’t need an enclosure; stick it in as secondary HD on another computer and access the files that way.

  15. Don’t have to pull the Cmos battery. A board that recent will have a simple Clear Cmos jumper. Take it off, put it in the clear position, wait a few seconds, put it back, try booting up.

  16. I second the Linux LiveCD option. If the PC can boot, in 5 minutes you can access a webmail account and mail the files wherever you want.

  17. Can you access BIOS setup at all? Get any beeps codes on boot? Etc. Just because it happened with/during an update doesn’t mean it’s not something else. And there’s SO many things it could be.

  18. I wonder how often brainpals lockup during or after an update. I am also wondering what you ended up doing to get it running again and if there was any actual data loss.

  19. I third the LiveCD option. I’ve got one, and it is always the absolute first thing I use as it lets me go look at the data without having to worry about the danger that a Windows “fix” will blast it. Just boot on it, hook up an external drive and copy, first thing. This is MUCH easier than mucking with the hardware

    Then try to fix using the LiveCD tools or Windows or whatever.

    The great thing about LiveCD Linux distributions is that they let you use all your drives as if from a real operating system without actually having to put that operating system on the machine. Too bad Microsoft never thought of that. It makes Linux better for fixing Windows than Windows.

  20. That sucks big time. But on the silver lining/clouds hand if it is still hosed this evening you have a great excuse to spend quality valentines day time with that financial genius of a spouse of yours

    FWIW My Linux Cd recommendation

    http://www.sysresccd.org/Main_Page

    although I thought I saw that you’d just installed ubuntu somewhere so that CD should be good for the basics of fixing things

    I am in the process of moving my XP laptop to a Vmware/wine overlay on top of ubuntu. Seeing this kind of thing makes me keener still to extract the digit and get the virtualization working properly

  21. It’s the invisible sky giant’s way of telling you that you should get off the computer and pay attention to your significant other.

  22. This gives me flashbacks to 2005 when our hard drive when Kapooie and I lost a full third of my book with no backup. We now have an external hard drive and I back up EVERYTHING once a week. You have my deepest sympathies.

  23. Don’t go and pin the blame on Windows Updates people, the fact that it’s not even booting past the BIOS screen isn’t an issue with Windows, if it was booting to the Windows XP startup screen then you can blame Windows, but this sounds more like an issue with the hardware in the tower possibly a bad hard drive that finally bit the dust *Shrug* It happens, I should know I work in IT so I’m always dealing with this stuff :(

  24. Macs are less likely to have this kind of thing happen. Please consider one, since you need to replace your computer anyway.

  25. Don’t listen to all those other people. What you need to do is put cellophane wrap over all your doors and windows. This will effectively turn your entire house into a clean room.

    Then you need to get it cold in your house. Really cold. I’d say open all the doors and windows – but they have to be cellophaned shut. So just crank up the ac and open any refrigerator or freezer doors and leave them open. It might be uncomfortable but were talking about irreplacable and valuable data.

    OK – once it’s down below freezing, any stray particles in the air will freeze and drop to the floor. You can get out your screwdrivers, ball peen hammer and a good microscope. Oh – and a good thick notepad, we’re going to be writing down lots of ones and zeroes.

    Crack that bad boy open. Insider there will be little discs that look sort of like cds, but they are heavier. You need to get them out. Be carefull. But don’t worry too much. Remember your working in a clean room now so it should mostly be alright.

    So get those discs out, they are called platters. On them are all these microscopic bits of metal that stand up or lay down to represent a one or zero. It doesn’t matter if up or down is 1 or 0 – just be consistent and if what you get at the end doesn’t make sense, flip it around to the reverse and try again.

    Anyway – they are microscopic, so that’s why you’ve got the microscope. Put each platter on the microscope and on your notepad start writing down a 1 for each little metal thingy you see standing up and a zero for each one laying down. Do that until you’ve covered both sides of all the platters.

    That should keep you busy for a while. Let me know when that’s done and I’ll tell you how to get a hex editor running so you can start typing in those ones and zeroes – to recover your data.

    This may seem like a hassle now, but you’ll learn a lot about how hard drives work. Your next system you can make your own hard drives from stuff you can find in a lot of dumpsters.

    So when you are ready for the next steps just drop me a line.

  26. From the fact that the last thing it’s doing is attempting to load the boot menu, it looks like your master boot record might be hosed.

    Problem: the standard way to fix this is to use a tool on the Vista installation CD, which you say you don’t have (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927392).

    Given that’s not an option for you, there’s some people discussing how to restore the MBR without a recovery disk here:
    http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies-archive.cfm/721404.html

    I’m unable to vouch for any of the answers in there personally, however, but a bootable CD with an MBR-repairer is what you’d probably be looking for.

  27. stoolpigeon’s post is awesome. Do that.

    Or, if not…

    a linux live CD will be wonderful for recovering data. knoppix or ubuntu will do the trick. some people already mentioned that, I’m just naming specific flavors I use daily (yep, daily. i work in IT)

    a windows install CD (for whatever windows you have) to boot to and try to repair windows. again, i think someone mentioned this. but it’s a good thing to try. it might get you back up and running, at least so you can easily email work to yourself or other such things.

    David Graham says it isn’t windows that’s the problem. But if that BIOS screen is coming up, it’s POSTing…so it really depends on if there’s an error there, or what. The Windows splash screen doesn’t always come up. If Windows is really hosed, it won’t.

    Bill Sveinson said Macs don’t have this problem as much…but I disagree. I have seen Macs with OS issues. I have seen Macs with hard drive issues. Not as many as Intel/Windows, but there are also 9 PCs for every 1 Mac out there…yeah. So I don’t know that I agree. But Macs are still awesome, and I do think Scalzi should get one :) Just because :)

  28. Mac folk: Speaking as one (commited, since 1986) — knock it off.

    Scalzi has a Mac, as Gianluca noted upthread. They’re great. No shit. But suggesting that someone whose working day is pretty well shot because of — and who has timely, paying work held hostage inside the fortress of — a hosed computer “invest in a Mac” only makes the rest of us Apple partisans look like smug a**holes.

  29. coyote @ #20: lol.

    Aside from the many excellent suggestions above, sometimes the best technique is more like this:

  30. “Automatic update” — ::shudders::

    Don’t *DO* that!

    Speaking as a computer security guy, professionally, not doing so is a HORRIBLE idea. Turn off auto reboots, sure, but anyone running Windows should install the updates every second tuesday of the month as soon as possible. It takes less than 24 hours to reverse engineer a patch, figure out what sort of attack vector it is trying to plug up, and add working exploit code the the metasploit framework.

    People turning off auto update is the primary reason Windows has as much malware as it does. At any point in time there are fewer unaddressed vulnerabilities in Windows than in any major Linux distro (though if you are syncing against the cvs repository and building yourself obviously you are getting your patches before the distros make them available) and certainly fewer than Apple. The problem is people don’t patch when the should.

    (The other primary reason is that many common users are susceptible to social engineering which a simple patch can’t stop)

    So people PLEASE don’t disable your updates.

  31. I’ll second El Chupageek. As an IT professional some of the biggest issues I’ve seen with Windows is with drastically unpatched machines. I went round and around once with a USB issue in a client’s office only to discover that the XP install was virgin–not even SP1–and there had been some USB issues fixed along the way.

    And then I’ll second Stoolpigeon. Do that. Do that all day.

    But it looks like the BIOS took a shit. I would try popping the CMOS battery and holding in the power button to drain the capacitors. I’m guessing that the BIOS can’t load its own boot menu and thus can’t figure out which device to spin up, which means booting to a CD won’t work any better than booting to the hard drive. If resetting the BIOS doesn’t work, then the chip itself is probably spazzing out and there’s nothing for it but a new mobo.

    If I lived closer I’d offer to bring over my SATA-to-USB converter to pull the files. Unless, of course, you have a PC with a spare SATA bay. I know I don’t, which is why I love the converter.

  32. Ok reason me this. HDD is on the Sata port. That is fine and dandy. I have a SATA HDD too. I see nothing on the primary IDE port and 2 items on the secondary port.

    So is the manufacturer of your computer so stuck on the fact that optical drives go on the secondary port that they couldn’t put one on the primary and one on the secondary?

    Sheesh.

    Ok can you get to BIOS? I assume boot menu is Winders boot menu that normally just says go here and load winders. Unless this is the Winders/Linux PC in which case you have a dual boot menu option. Hmm, I then expect that Vista didn’t like you dual booting to that evil free OS and fixed you good!

  33. You have all the fixit advice you could want and then some, but for the ‘I’m just keeping a couple of files locally’ situation, this is what I do. Mozy is a free online backup service that trickle uploads so a handful of files will go quickly; you get more free space if you Google for someone who has posted an invite link so they get more free space to. (I actually use Carbonite now, but it isn’t free). And SyncToy is a way cool MS PowerToy that lets you pair up folders in flexible ways to automatically copy files across; you can schedule them with Task Scheduler.

  34. #41: As I mentioned, I NEVER allow automatic updates to Windows or any other software. I have far fewer problems than anyone else I know, not more. And when it wants updates, I always read the description of what the update is supposed to do. Some, I have never allowed.

  35. Re: stoolpigeon — you forgot to mention you have to sprinkle the iron ferrite crystals all over the platters first. Makes it much easier to read the 1s and 0s with all that extra magnetized iron around.

    Microsoft has been known to ship automatic update patches which crash and burn — good testing! I prefer to wait a bit and see if the howls stink up the Internet. The other reason I won’t MS or Norton do automatic updates is that when I turn on a machine, I usually have work to do. Waiting for some automatic system to “release” the machine back to me is not my concept of “ownership”.

    And though I use lots of desktop icons for things, they are all shortcuts to regular file locations which get backed up. Can’t tell you how many people I’ve known who’ve stored all sorts of important bits “on the desktop” only to have odd things make them vanish. (and that includes Macs, my good friends)

    Sorry you’re having problems, John — and that you have to suffer the abuse, er, helpful hints from the Whatever faithful.

    Dr. Phil

  36. Automatic update! On the operating system! Jesus Christ! If you were walking down the street and saw a syringe on the sidewalk, would you pick it up and jam it in your arm?!?

    Hell no, I don’t trust all content from Microsoft. I also don’t let random hobos sleep in my car.

    Good luck, and god help you.

  37. This is completely off-topic and I do apologize, but Scalzi, I don’t know who else to turn to.

    I haven’t gotten a confirmation email from Tor, nor have I gotten anything in my inbox from Tor at all. Have they launched their free ebook event yet? Am I just in the cold? I tried to register with another email a few days ago and the site told me no.

    I really wish I could help you with your computer troubles, but it seems everyone else can, so that’s good. Windows gives me hives whenever anything goes wrong…I’ve been a Mac user for too many years now.

  38. And your blog is magical.

    Why?

    Because, six days after signing up, but not five minutes after I post the above comment? Yep, the Tor email lands in my inbox.

    Your kungfu is amazing, good sir.

  39. Here’s hoping you weren’t trying out Bitlocker on that drive.

    I have one folder for critical stuff that I use the free iDrive for. Syncs up every ten minutes. Recommended.

  40. it could be trying to boot from a CD/DVD in one of the optical drives.

    Go into your BIOS, if you can, and make sure that the PC is set to boot from the SATA drive.

  41. Enough with the Get A Mac, people. If you saw a guy with a broken-down VW Golf at the side of the road would you shout “Get an Escalade!” at him?

  42. I know everyone else has already mentioned this, but… on this day last year I discovered Knoppix and recovered the video I had shot the day before of my son (then 14 months) in his last insane crawl-in-circles fit, just before he started walking. Mere hours after moving it from the camera to the PC, everything crashed and I couldn’t reinstall Windows. Knoppix saved my favorite video. I have never been so grateful for a simple download in my life.

    I used the directions here: http://www.shockfamily.net/cedric/knoppix/

    Hope you’ve recovered your files already, but if not, hope this helps.

  43. Thought I was having the same problem with the latest updates, but the big red switch worked for me.

    Of course, I just want to get in my computer and drive.

    Best of luck.

  44. Automatic update! On the operating system! Jesus Christ! If you were walking down the street and saw a syringe on the sidewalk, would you pick it up and jam it in your arm?!?

    Oh, I see, so you carefully read each bulletin to see what files get patched and what the vulnerability is, roll out updates on a pilot setup and then decide to install them on your personal computer? I mean, I will grant that MS has fewer patches than their competitors, and setting Windows Update to auto download but not auto install patches makes it pretty practical to scan what is a security patch and what isn’t, but manually applying all patches after careful research is still unpractical for personal use. That works fine for corporate rollout but average users aren’t really investing that much time for their personal machine, and the other alternative is to go unpatched, which as mentioned beforehand, is freaking risky. The problem with Windows security remains Windows users and even if you might have decent habits in terms of manually applying patches you should not advocate others adopt the practice.

    My guess, however, is that your habits suck as well and your machine is rather vulnerable.

    Microsoft has been known to ship automatic update patches which crash and burn — good testing!

    Name one in the past year. Name three from the past five years. Adobe and Apple may be rocking the flawed patches these days but MS is a heck of a lot more careful than it was in 2002. They learned that the hard way, but they did learn it and that mindset of flawed patches is dated. There are more testers for patches at MS than there are people testing OS X at all.

    Think Different. Get a Mac.

    Think different, just like everyone else thinking like us! It’s like the goth version of computing. Meanwhile I will continue to curse Apple for my 40gig iPod, a model of iPod with a 30% failure rate (Jeebus, the Xbox 360 is only 16% and it is horrible). Or Apple for STILL not properly fixing the same quicktime vulnerability that it has now patched 4 times and not gotten it right.

  45. How many times does it need to be said? Scalzi has an Apple. And he has a Windows PC and he’s testing Ubuntu Linux. So advising him to switch to an operating system he already uses is kinda dumb advice even if it had any potential to solve the specific problem of a crashed machine with vital data onboard. Which it doesn’t. The only “use a different OS” advice that has any relevance is the suggestion that he could try using a live CD or USB stick to salvage his data to an external hard drive if the crashed machine is able to boot from the optical drive or USB ports.

    (I don’t know if Windows still has a live CD option, but if John burned his Ubuntu ISO to a CD when he downloaded it, he has a live CD sitting around. Attempting to boot off of it might help narrow down whether he has a hardware failure or an OS issue even if he isn’t able to use it to get those works-in-progress off the hard drive.)

    Anyway!

    Good luck, John. I hope it’s an inexpensive and easily-fixed issue.

  46. El Chupageek: Don’t be bitter because you didn’t hop on the iPod train in time. My “ancient” third-gen iPod, some four years old now, has nothing more the matter with it than a failing lithium battery (and my inherent laziness in replacing it…its main use is in the car and I have a charger for that). Despite having been dropped well over one hundred times, as well.

    Also, the thing with Apple is that flawed patches aren’t as terrible as they are for Microsoft. Apple created a code and operating system that you actually have to learn to code in, whereas any twelve year old can create a Windows virus. My machine isn’t as susceptible as yours is, period.

    Don’t bag on “Think Different”, either. It’s just a slogan. Sheesh.

  47. I wasn’t going to mention this but have you noticed that after you wrote about a “religion” that rhymes with Cryanthology your website server crashed and now this?

    Hmmmm. (looks up and whistles softly)

  48. Pardon, the symptoms in the Slashdot article are an “eternal reboot cycle.” So it may not help you after all.

  49. El Chupageek: Don’t be bitter because you didn’t hop on the iPod train in time.

    Eh, I had a 2nd gen ipod (when they released the 15gb model) and then upgraded to the 4g 40gig because they just intro’d the iPod mini click wheel on the real ipod. Turns out that model was absolute crap in terms of quality.

    Also, the thing with Apple is that flawed patches aren’t as terrible as they are for Microsoft. Apple created a code and operating system that you actually have to learn to code in, whereas any twelve year old can create a Windows virus. My machine isn’t as susceptible as yours is, period.

    Sorry, that is a myth. Metasploit has freaking iPhone exploits in it, along with OS X, linux, and Windows exploits. It’s just as easy regardless of platform. Exploiting OSX is trivial, simpler than Windows because there are far more zero day unpatched vulnerabilities. Mac security in general is a fairy tale. It is an open door on a high mountain (whereas Windows is a highly secured house in a really bad neighborhood). No one might be stopping by but if they do there is nothing stopping them from walking through the front door. What restricts Mac malware are the same restrictions of biological viruses, namely the economics of propogation. Worms only propogate if they find other hosts to spread to. With a mac is more difficult to find another mac to compromise. Even if I write a worm that infects a mac it will only spread if that mac then finds another mac to propagate to, which given its small install base relative to Windows isn’t likely. Its much more likely that it will encounter windows machines.

    It is discoverability that puts Windows machines at risk; Apple has that going for them right now but as they increase market share that will change.

  50. Also, incidentally, the twelve year olds writing exploits isn’t the threat. Exploits these days are being written by organized crime employing incredibly skilled professional developers. Computer crime is a $40 billion a year industry; it is professionals who can write tailored exploits that are a risk to common users.

  51. OK, I’ll bite. Chupageek, what OS X exploits are you talking about? Name one just big hole, please. Just because some hacker’s toolkit supposedly has some weapons against Apple doesn’t mean that they can actually do any damage. From my understanding (primarily via Slashdot discussions), OS X has some of the same security advantages of its parent BSD, including its UNIX-style user permissions.

    So a little more detail please, Chupageek….

  52. As we veer inexorably off-topic, let’s not forget the most important thing: Dave’s comment about the syringe and the hobo was by far the funniest in the thread.

  53. Dude, just go to the National Vulnerability Database and scan for Quicktime vulnerabilities. There are pages full of them. I make a malformed quicktime video and post it in any public forum that doesn’t do proper sanitization of user input. Then anyone with safari (well in this case, anyone with freaking quicktime regardless of browser or os) views the post and quicktime automatically executes my custom code.

    Eh, lets just assume there isn’t an actual elivation of priveledge attack (there is) I can still execute as your user and do everything your user can do, like say, email out all of your documents.

    Windows has permissions too, every modern os does. That is a speed bump, and so long as an account can do *something* so can any code running under that account.

  54. Well, Chupageek, I searched the National Vulnerability Database and as far as I can tell there is precisely one (1) vulnerability that affects QuickTime 7.4.1 (which is the latest version). Since the vulnerabilities are listed from the most recent to the earliest, it looks like most of the other ones are covered, i.e. they refer to “every version before 7.3” and so on.

    If Apple users employ the automatic update tool, which they should, I think they would be safe from 99.9% of the QuickTime vulnerabilities that you mention.

  55. You are correct. It was patched last week (thursday or friday I believe), though as this is the THIRD time they patched the same vector I will assure you that it is still possible to find a vulnerability there. They obviously are not fixing the underlying flaw. Further, are you going to assert that all Macs, especially with the relative complacency regarding security, are fully patched?

    It also is not by any means the only attack vector against the mac. Ask any other security professional about their opinion of Apple security if you don’t believe me, but I can describe an attack pretty quickly first that will work against fully patched systems that meet certain conditions. In leopard there is a feature that allows a user to remotely connect to their mac assuming they have an active .Mac account and enabled it. It is a feature that would have been killed by the MS Secure Development Lifecycle process immediately; it would have never passed threat modelling because it is insecure by design though there are several ways apple *could* have mitigated most of the risk if they had a proper secure design review. If you had that feature turned on, were reading this forum from a machine that had an unexpired session to .Mac (which until recently didn’t EVER expire, but now has the option to log out if the user specifically does) and I find a zero day XSS flaw in word press I could post a message here that allowed me to extract your .Mac session ID and connect to .Mac as you, then use the remote connect feature to connect to your mac, as you.

    Now I am not going to do that, I do have professional ethics (and also happen to like our host and thus wouldn’t want to use his site for attacks even if I was otherwise morally reprehensible), however it could just as easily be a romanian with scripts that randomly scan the net for any commonly visited site that allows user input and doesn’t do both input validation and HTML element encoding and posts thousands of attacks. The only thing stopping this is that there is more profit ($$) posting other types of attacks (say, looking for active wellsfargo.com sessions)

  56. As someone else noted, if you can’t even get to BIOS it’s most likely a hardware problem. And if a CMOS reset does nothing and you still can’t get to BIOS and it still locks, well, its almost certainly a hardware problem. Which is a very long list of things to check if you’re not comfortable rummaging around computer innards to do elimination testing. On the bright side, the hard drive is probably OK and can be extracted and read. (BEFORE doing any major testing. First thing.)

    The other major possibility is a scrambled/altered MBR related to the recent dual-boot setup screwing up the update and leaving an MBR mess. Remove HD and grab all files (BEFORE doing any diddling, first thing) and pray for easy MBR fix or functional repair re-install.

  57. To be clear, I am not saying a fully patched leopard box is a cheesecloth in terms of open security holes. It is reasonably secure, but at the moment, and for the past two years, Apple has had a significantly higher vulnerability discovery rate and greater number of days of vulnerability than Microsoft. This means that at any point in time an Apple machine has a higher chance of vulnerability than a Windows machine. What Apple has in its favor is that the Windows machines will have a higher chance that someone will probe for a vulnerability on that machine but that has only created the illusion of security on the part of Apple.

    This is dangerous because it has made Apple users complacent towards security and the biggest source of vulnerability is ALWAYS the user. Users complacent to security do not take precautions; they are more lax about patching, less skeptical about various email and websites, are less likely to have anti-malware software running (really Apple users, how many of you are running *any* anti-malware solution at all, even if it is just once a week?), etc. If a user is of a security mindset they are pretty secure on ANY system. However Apple users are encouraged not to think about security by the company rhetoric, and sadly the company believes its own rhetoric. They simply are not practicing the secure practices that any software vendor really should be obligated to follow these days and it is reflected in their rate of vulnerability discovery and in how long it takes them to address those vulnerabilities.

  58. The alternate “LiveCD” is a BartPE cd. It’s a free version of what Microsoft uses as WindowsPE. It’s a CD bootable version of Windows, I know there’s one for XP but I don’t know if there’s one out for Vista yet.

  59. Wow this really has turned into a full blown “my doohickey is better than your doohickey” fight. Sigh. Silly people.

    Scalzi- how is your computer doing? Did you happen to get your files off, or figure out what the problem was/is?

  60. Geeks can be very partisan about their tech (raises hand and blushes) The sad part is Mr. Scalzi is dealing with a crapped out PC while we bicker. Normally I wouldn’t much care about someones computer issues but this is taking away from his production! Which raises the question all small buisness owners face. At what point am I better off paying someone else to do a job.

  61. I figured you had something since you where still posting to/upating the Whatever. Plus the fact that you installed linux indicates geekish tendancies if not a full blown case of geekdom, to say nothing about the fact that you are a published SF author, which would be a -5 on saving throw vs the shinny where tech is concerned. Leading to a multiple computer household. None of which changes the fact that hours spent fixing the computer are hours not spent churning out your next tale. That said, I would guess you enjoy fixing your computer (see above proof of geek status) so this could be considered recreation. There, I have completely contradicted myself. Sigh. I would argue with myself if there was no internet.

  62. i got the same thing this week after the automatic update. The solution for me was to reset the bios . You should have a reset jumper on the pc motherboard. You reset it and the pc will ask you to use the default setting and you will be able to boot in windows.

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